The Joy/Pain conundrum…

May 2021

Have you ever finished a marathon or half-marathon and someone asked ‘How was it?’  Do you start to say I ‘enjoyed’ it and then pause, musing over the suffering & trying to understand how you enjoyed an event with so much suffering?  I’ve paused many times on this question and then gone on to say ‘I enjoyed it, loved the course, appreciated the volunteers, admired the determination of the other runners, and can’t wait to come back and do this again.’  

A number of years ago, I came across this photo.  Pictured is Warren Reid, an accomplished marathoner from Macon GA who was at his career peak in the 1980s.  Warren was part of the ‘70’s running craze that swept across the nation.  His was the era of Bill Rodgers, Mary Decker, Frank Shorter, and Joan Benoit.  His was the era of Nike & New Balance, sweat bands and headbands, and the era when runners brought new language into the sport with topics ranging from pronation to hydration.

Warren’s photo is an instant classic, haunting in depth and emotion.  Is he enjoying his run up this long hill?  We see the distance he has traveled in the background, the winding ribbon of asphalt and yellow lines.  His left leg is pushing against 2-3 times his body weight and initiating the rebound and propulsion phase of his stride. We see both the joy and pain in Warren’s expression.  We see his strength and his vulnerability.  His still frame captures the strangeness of running – its joy and its pain.  And where else do we find joy & pain so strangely intertwined?  In Love.  Where there is love, you will find joy and pain.  Rushing mad joy like that flowing from a new friendship or romance.  Piercing pain from the loss of loved one.  Running is a sport we love because it is love – it creates the physical elements of joy and pain that are also connected to our spiritual joy & pain.  Warren Reid passed away 8 years ago.  His photo still hangs prominently in the home of his daughter, Kristin Reid, another accomplished runner and athlete.  Kristin reflects daily on her father’s image and is reminded of her joy and pain in loving her father.  

-John K

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